Pressure rising for overworked pharmacists

Stressed pharmacist in dispensary

Pharmacists are experiencing a disturbing increase in their workloads which may impact on their ability to provide medicines and advice safely.

So says the union for employee pharmacists, which has written to the Pharmacy Board expressing concern about pharmacist workloads and seeking to explore measures the Board could take to ensure guidelines are observed by employers.

“The insights into pharmacists’ workloads that we are getting shows a disturbing trend in the sector,” says PPA’s Matt Harris.

“It’s a very real challenge that cannot be dismissed as a few isolated cases.”

Feedback since the Board was approached includes the following examples, Harris told the AJP:

  • “Every year, there seems to be more required of me, yet there is no extra support or increased remuneration.”
  • “It’s not just prescription numbers that add to workload stress. We are expected to provide an increasing number of services in the same amount of time with increase in pay.”
  • “Some pharmacies have pharmacists dispensing over 300 scripts a day by themselves.”

Earlier this month PPA wrote to the Pharmacy Board’s Bill Kelly saying that it believes addressing workplace pressures will assist one of the Pharmacy Board’s strategic aims to “contribute to a  sustainable pharmacy workforce strategy that meets the future needs of the Australian community”.

“We are concerned that an increasing number of pharmacists have reported to us of regularly being expected to dispense more than 200 prescriptions per day without adequate support from their employer,” it wrote.

“This appears to be a contravention of the Board’s dispensing guidelines.

“In some of these instances, employers are not responding to the concerns of employees, and ensuring that the Board’s guidelines are followed so that heavy workloads are managed appropriately.

“Many pharmacists report being left alone to cope with these issues without the adequate support mechanisms in place.

“The consequences of not properly monitoring workplace pressures can lead to situations that potentially jeopardise patient safety, and we need to ensure that these pressures are being taken seriously.”

“When we meet with the Board, we’ll be sharing the feedback we’ve received, and we want them to clarify just how it enforces its dispensing guidelines,” Harris told the AJP.

The concerns mirror pharmacists’ experience in the UK, where pharmacists responded to a Guardian exposé on Boots pressure to implement Medicine Use Reviews with an “unprecedented slew of mail” that the paper’s letters editor believed might be the biggest ever response to a single article. The responses told of not only pressure to do MURs, but of pharmacists being severely overworked and left alone to perform huge amount of work, compromising patient safety.

AJP readers responded to our recent poll, which asked if they were considering leaving the profession, and an article examining the response, with similar concerns.

The poll found 61% of pharmacists were considering leaving the profession, with another 21% answering, “Maybe”.

“Discount models, s**t pay, loads of work to the point that you will either kill someone with a mistake or get a heart attack, and most of the times I find my conditions are a lot worse than a dispensary tech, at least he just focuses on what he is doing, but I have to answer questions, answer the phone, deal with complaints, record pseudo, do orders… and dispense 150 scripts alone a day,” wrote reader Ahmed.

“Why work (if you can get any) when you get paid such a poor amount after all that training (which is underutilised as the number of scripts processed per day prohibits getting out and talking/counselling people)?” asked reader Leah Rosevear.

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  1. Man

    The PPA have it all wrong – There is only contravention of ‘guidelines’! Guidelines are not LAW! If they don’t become LAW, and this Law isn’t enforced, then ‘nothing’ will happen! This is like begging your masters for pity and mercy! Just give feedback to the board and the guild with a strike! They can wait for any feedback they like, it will be the same!

    • Free pharmacist

      I have many pharmacist who would like to share in a proper strike in Sydney, we don’t believe that PPA has any influence of anyway on the guild or Medicare the have wasted our time on trying to get more members and they lack of the power, please reply if interested.if we don’t stand for ourselves no body else will,

      • Kaveh Sarraf

        Wow really! We have over half a dozen pharmacists that are interested to go on strike as well.

        You need to be a union member though to protect yourself from possible repercussions from the employers. PPA membership is a must if ur planning to take such actions.

      • UnderappreciatedPharmacist

        Hi free pharmacist!

        I agree wholeheartedly with you! Who is PPA and what have they done besides their flashy videos that achieve nothing? I am not shaming them, just wondering what they are doing besides not getting invited to Guild meeting?

        I LOVE the idea of a strike.

  2. Anonymous

    It’s ridiculous. Is this profession even a profession anymore?

    • UnderappreciatedPharmacist

      It is getting less and less professional for sure my anonymous friend! There are still those among us who are doing our part and remaining up to date and ABOVE par.

      It is a stark contrast to big box pharmacies forcing their pharmacists to adhere so loosely to the guidelines. We are all going that way! 🙁

    • Apotheke

      Stopped being a profession a long time ago. I would say Pharmacy was a profession BCWH (before Chemist Warehouse) but not any longer it is has become a race to the bottom on price. Pharmacy has become commoditized and the Pharmacist’s skills totally devalued.

  3. Rod

    So if the owners don’t have the money to pay for all the better conditions, because of intense competition and falling PBS income, will the employees and Board put the owners through the meat grinder to force them to ‘cough up’ with (costlier) better conditions? And will those same owners then be blamed when they go bankrupt / lay off staff, and the employee pharmacists are out of a job? Remember that some owners are aware that if capable staff are well looked after and well-paid, those staff give more in return.

  4. anon

    Greedy dangerous owners ; give legal warnings and remove PBS and Pharmacy approval nos — it is for the privileged few good owners and give them to the upcoming professional owners.

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